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Information for School Districts: COVID-19

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The recent spread of COVID-19 has forced Wisconsin’s public and private schools to shut their doors indefinitely, and many districts have transitioned to some form of digital learning.

Through this entire process, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has provided support, guidance, and resources to school districts across the state. The department has remained in constant communication with administrators as we navigate these uncharted waters together.

Note: To stay connected, and to receive the latest updates and resources from DPI in relation to the COVID-19 outbreak, visit the DPI’s dedicated webpage.

Here are the latest updates the DPI has provided to districts, as of March 31, 2020:

COVID-19 Letter from State Superintendent Carolyn

Carolyn Stanford Taylor wrote a letter to district administrators, encouraging them to consider the following:

Graduation Policies

Engage with other districts and share strategies on how to ensure students who were on track for graduation prior to school closure can graduate. Find information on the linked state high school graduation requirements and school board authority.

Continuity of Learning

Consider how you continue to provide learning opportunities during the duration of the closure. See the resource titled Considerations for Teaching and Learning during COVID-19.

Social and Emotional Well-Being

Continuity of learning should also include paying attention to the social and emotional needs of students during these difficult times. We are currently working on resources for parents and school staff to address these issues and hope to have those to you by next week.

Communication with Students 

Some of the most important work you will do over the next few weeks will involve connecting with your students. Make sure you know how they are doing. Students hear the news and see the changes in their lives, and your contact will make a difference.

Other considerations from DPI include:

Virtual Learning

During the closure of Wisconsin schools, the DPI has encouraged districts to continue student instruction to the best of their ability. In the absence of in-person instruction, many districts have turned to some form of digital learning. This type of learning involves a wide range of tools and practices. Results from the DPI’s Digital Learning Survey indicated more than 60 percent of districts surveyed report students in 6-12th grade classrooms having a device assigned to each student.

The reality is not every Wisconsin student has access to the same tools and resources. To that end, the DPI has been working collaboratively to ensure learning continues. The department has curated broadband and digital access resources for schools to leverage. DPI has also compiled a list of the ways dozens of Wisconsin schools have shifted to digital learning.

For additional resources, tools, and the latest updates on digital learning, visit the DPI’s Teaching and Learning webpage.

Instructional Hour Waivers

On March 21, Gov. Tony Evers issued Emergency Order #10, which suspends certain portions of the DPI’s administrative rules. This enables the DPI to implement an expedited process to districts requesting to waive the hours of instruction requirement, allowing districts to use one simple form to have the waiver granted immediately because of the ongoing public health emergency.


It has become increasingly clear it is not possible to complete required testing this year, and the DPI has informed administrators there will be no further state assessments this school year. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Education approved Wisconsin’s waiver, which suspends testing and accountability requirements under federal law for the 2019-20 school year.

The DPI is continuing its work with Gov. Tony Evers and the Wisconsin State Legislature to address state statutory requirements on testing and accountability.

A majority of Wisconsin students have already taken the ACT exam prior to school closures. However, for those who were unable to do so, the DPI is working with ACT to provide an additional opportunity to take the exam later this year. Once the DPI has a finalized plan on this topic, it will notify districts of steps to take to provide this opportunity to students.

For additional information and the latest updates on assessments and COVID-19, visit the DPI’s assessment webpage.

School Meals

The DPI’s waiver to the U.S. Department of Agriculture was approved, and the congregate feeding requirement for the Summer Food Service Program and Seamless Summer Option during an unanticipated school closure has been waived. The approval means districts can provide meals to all students in the manner most appropriate.

For additional information and the latest updates on school meals and COVID-19, visit the DPI’s Child Nutrition webpage.

Special Education

The DPI recently published updated guidance for students with IEPs, and is encouraging districts to provide learning opportunities for all students so they can make educational progress despite the significant disruption these school closures have caused. Students with disabilities should have access to these opportunities to the greatest extent possible.

If some services cannot be provided, districts must consider which compensatory services will be offered once schools reopen. The determinations must be made on an individual student basis.


The DPI will not be requiring districts to report attendance during the period schools are closed for the public health emergency. If schools decide to choose to take attendance, they have the latitude to determine how to do so.

Note: To stay connected, and to receive the latest updates and resources from DPI in relation to the COVID-19 outbreak, visit the DPI’s dedicated webpage.